This study provides results from a four-​year experiment that took place from 2010-​2013 near Plainview, TX. We analyzed the impact of irrigation timing and well capacity for cotton production using a low energy precision application (LEPA) irrigation system under extreme weather conditions. Our results indicate that attempting to bank moisture in the soil with early season irrigation decreased profitability and did not significantly increase yield. Irrigation in the last growing stage generates the greatest profit potential. The high irrigation capacity treatments achieved the highest yield, gross margin, and return on water applied. On average, these treatments generated the most revenue but also had the highest variable cost, due to increased pumping, such that the gross margin was similar to that of the medium irrigation capacity treatments. These results suggest that water can be saved and producers can be profitable while conserving resources. In years of reduced rainfall such as 2012, high amounts of irrigation could be used to minimize profit losses; however, in an extreme drought year like 2011 where losses were incurred across all treatments, conserving water for use in the next cropping season may be the best irrigation management strategy.

Publication: Mitchell-​McCallister, D., R.B.Williams, J. Bordovsky, J. Mustian, G. Ritchie, K. Lewis (2020). Maximizing profits via irrigation timing for capacity-​constrained cotton production. Agricultural Water Management, Volume 229, 28 February 2020, 105932.

This article is part of a special issue titled “Managing the Ogallala” published by Agricultural Water Management that was guest edited by Ogallala Water team members Ryan Bailey, Meagan Schipanski, and Isaya Kisekka.

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